Colin Tizzard reported yesterday that his Ryanair Chase winner Fox Norton (10/1 with BetVictor at the time of his defection) was out of the Cheltenham Festival with a recurrence of an old injury. The Nicky Henderson stable posted a tweet of Santini back in work yesterday, but the novice chaser is out to 4/1 at BetVictor (Non Runner No Bet) for the RSA Chase behind 7/4 Delta Work and 7/2 Topofthegame.
News also broke on Wednesday that Close Brothers’ Novices Chase favourite Clondaw Castle would bypass the handicap having been supplemented for the Arkle Chase (14s BetVictor NRNB) by trainer Tom George.
Clerk of the Course Simon Claisse reported the track had 17mls of rain overnight on Tuesday and the ground is now good to soft (soft in places) with a further 15mls expected between now and flag-fall on Tuesday.
There is a competitive Handicap Chase at Wincanton this afternoon and Mystical Knight (2.40) has his first start for Anthony Honeyball having been bought out of Rebecca Curtis’s yard for just £10,000 last summer. The staying chaser, who used to run in the colours of JP McManus, has gone very well fresh in the past and is very well treated on some of his old form. The consistent Len Brennan and One Of Us are respected but Mystical Knight can reward each way support.
Dieu Benisse (3.15) has fallen in both her hurdle starts to date but she can make it third time lucky for Nicky Henderson in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle over the minimum trip. Miranda is penalised 6lbs for winning at Ludlow on debut and the Paul Nicholls’ trained juvenile looks a big danger.
I hope the ground is no worse than good to soft for Vis A Vis (3.45) who finished fourth in the Cesarewitch back in October before making a satisfactory hurdles debut when runner up at Carlisle (good to soft) over this 2m 4f trip last month. Honeyball saddles Avoir De Soins who fell three furlongs from home on his sole Bumper start. He was backed into favouritism on that occasion and it will be interesting to see if there is any money for the horse on his first run over obstacles.
Trevelyn’s Corn (4.20) is a reference to the wonderful Irish ballad “The Fields of Athenry” where Michael steals the Baronet’s corn in order to feed Mary and his child during the Great Irish Famine of the 19th century. Where were we? Oh yes, I feel Paul Nicholls’ 6-y-old, who will make a terrific chaser next term, can break his maiden under rules at the second attempt. The selection finished fourth in a better race over slightly further at Ascot on debut and I will be disappointed if he doesn’t go very close this afternoon.
In the Bumper and Hawk’s Well (5.30) is taken to reverse Warwick form with Harry Fry’s Green Dolphin. Only a head separated the pair before Christmas, but the selection was given plenty to do on debut and gave the impression the experience would not be lost on him.
Venetia Williams saddles Chambard (2.50) at Carlisle and she should know where she stands with chief rival Dominateur who finished ahead of the stable’s Destinee Royale at Lingfield last time. The selection was beaten by the Philip Hobbs’ trained novice Smarty Boy (received 6lbs) at Ludlow last time and the winner bolted up at Exeter earlier in the week. These are two smart prospects but Chambard gets a narrow vote.
Vasco D’Ycy (3.25) has been given over four weeks to get over his first start coming back from a lengthy lay-off and, in the circumstances, he ran a cracker for Julia Brooke. He can race from the same mark this afternoon and the drop back in trip is no concern on the forecast heavy ground. A market move for Up Heely Aa King would be worth noting on his chase debut.
Molly Carew (4.30) has the small matter of 12st 5lbs to carry but she is 3lbs “well-in” despite her 7lbs penalty given she has been raised 10lbs for her fluent win at Ffos Las last week. If in the same mood she will be difficult to beat representing Neil Mulholland whose upturn in fortunes, we have highlighted in recent days.